72% of people who signed up for our coaching session said they find design approval difficult, yet 69.9% of those who use Atarim said they find it easy to approve designs.
Not having a proper process for this part of your web design business is where scope creep can lead to making client work unprofitable.
The most common culprit is endless revision rounds.
Clients keep asking for additional changes the moment you’ve finished changing what they first asked for – often because there are more people involved which means you get feedback from them in batches.
The end result = massive amounts of scope creep, causing you to get paid later. Back in our agency days we’ve had some projects that literally took a year to get finished while waiting for the client to finally decide the website already looked exactly the way they wanted it to.
Today, we’re here to bring that to an end…
Why A Solid Design Approval Process Matters
We often encounter web designers & agencies that are confident that they can deal with these problems as they come up without an actual plan or process. So, before we dive in – let’s take a look at why that isn’t a good idea:
- Scope creep usually arises after the initial design is done.
- Expecting the client to understand the process isn’t going to impress them when they don’t.
- Aiming to approve the entire website in one go is unrealistic.
- Clients lost trust early on (especially if your process made gathering content, and giving feedback difficult for them) – i.e. breaking down the relationship, affecting your credibility and reputation…
Now that it’s as clear as it gets why this matters. – let’s dive into how to properly deal with design approval… 🏊
The Missing Learning Curve
Once your first revision round is done (and we’ll move onto how to define revision rounds in a minute), and you’ve sent the email for them to leave feedback; realizing a few things about your client’s state of mind is key.
There is a huge chunk of information that is not communicated to clients at this step and it can lead to them not knowing exactly what they are looking at.
- Your client is not a designer (usually)
- They want their website to reflect their business, so it means a lot to them.
- Your prototype should already be approved so your client knows what layout to expect BEFORE the design is done, so they aren’t surprised or confused with what they are seeing.
- Teach your clients about what a website is for while doing the prototyping.
- If they are an ecomm store, teach them that they need to showcase their best products on the hero section to get more sales.
- Or if they are trying to get leads, they need a call to action at the bottom of the page.
- By teaching your client’s these simple things, they will start to realize that their website is more about that just how it looks to them, it should function as a shop window for their business.
In an ideal situation, you make it easier than ever for to show them this by using our platform!
Explain What Design Approval Actually Means To Clients
Setting Up For Success
Once you’re ready to send the design to your client, before doing so, put some pins on the sections they need to pay attention to with some simple explanations of what they are looking at.
For example, on the hero section about, we said to our client:
“Here is the Hero Section, this is where we want to showcase the main style of the website and show what your business does as soon as a potential lead lands on the page”
You’d be surprised the difference this makes when your client lands on the page, not only will it make them feel like you’ve gone out of your way to provide great service but now they are truly ready to give you feedback on that section!
Design Approval Email Template
This is a template, in other words – feel free to swipe it and adjust it to your business.
Hey [Client Name], Hope you're doing well! We're ready to move forward to the next stage – design approval. As we’re approaching the end of the project, I’d like you to go through the pages and let me know if there’s anything we missed on the design or anything needs changing. If you get inspired with additional requests at this stage, please note them down. We might include them, or make a list of requests that will add at a later date, if out of scope. Please use the visual collaboration system to add your notes throughout the site. This ensures we keep everything in one place & everyone on the same page. 🙂 Simply click the + icon on the right side of the screen to choose any part of the page to attach a message. If you want to learn a little more about it, here’s a short video: https://youtu.be/PtTHZgRdK5A Click here to access the newly designed home page: [Insert URL to client’s site or development enviornment] I allocated 2 revision rounds for this stage, each “revision round” is defined by 2 days and a weekend, like before (an estimated 1 hour of your time). Once this stage is done, we can launch the website – at your disposal if you have any questions at all... Take care & talk soon, [AGENCY NAME]
Successful Revision Rounds – Collecting Feedback & Getting Approval
Create An Action Plan & Focus For Each Revision Round
Before just blindly starting to accept feedback, it’s important that both you and your client are on the same page in terms of what to expect in each actual revision round.
What are they focusing on providing feedback on? Otherwise, you’ll get partial feedback on everything.
And the result of getting a little bit of feedback on everything will mean, you only get 1% closer to what the client actually wants.
This is the part of the process that when poorly executed is how to become unprofitable (whether you’re a freelance web designer or agency that hires people with overhead). Your time = money, and this is where scope creep comes in.
How To Execute A Successful Revision Round
Note: This will evidently vary for your web design business and the types of clients that you work so this is purely an example of how to plan out a single revision round.
Here are three things you need to know going into each revision round:
Timeframe – How long does the client have to gather feedback from all stakeholders involved?
Setting an actual timeframe on how long they have to collect feedback is important and keeps the project moving forward. After all, you’re taking their project seriously and allocating resources/time to handle it – and so should they. Communicate this by setting a date for when you expect to start working on their feedback from this particular revision round.
Focus – What should their feedback be focusing on?
For example, on the first revision round of the actual development – you likely won’t be focusing on each individual design element and image. You’ll want the client to focus on the big picture elements (i.e. layout, etc.).
That is simply because if you start focusing on the details in the initial round and then make any changes to the bigger picture, such as restructuring pages or sections of the website – all of the time invested focusing on the smaller details will have gone to waste.
Goal – Once approved what can no longer be changed?
And most importantly – what is the goal of this particular revision. Is it finalizing the layout, navigation, and content areas? Is it the last revision round focusing on making changes to any design details?
What is it? Make sure the client is aware so they can comment on the parts of the web design process as opposed to wasting effort giving you feedback on things that you plan to tackle later on in the next revision round.
For reference, most agencies adopt this tiered strategy with revision rounds – wherein, they firstly focus on layout and content, then on main design approval and finally on any smaller tweaks to the design.
This is because it makes sense. Once the layout and content have been approved, you are then ready to move onto the main design (as you know what the goal is for the website).
The main design involves the homepage and few other key pages such as services, product and about pages. This will typically be the longest revision round but once this has been agreed you can confidently move onto do the rest of the pages.
And then just prior to launch is the third and final revision round that accounts for any other minor tweaks needed to get the website ready for launch.
Dealing With Out of Scope Changes – Your Plan
If your client is aware of the implications but wants to go out of what was agreed previously, this shouldn’t be a problem. This is an opportunity for your agency to shine, charge accordingly and get the changes the client now wants done.
We have a complete guide on dealing with scope creep that covers this topic in detail. In short, similar to a regular revision round, define a clear timeframe and goal. In terms of pricing – some agencies adopt a standard, flat-rate hourly fee for any changes that were out of the project’s original scope. We find this to work quite well, especially for Atarim customers that use our built-in time tracking feature to track how long implementing each individual change that they request takes.
This also reassures clients that they really are only paying for the unaccounted changes that they now requested + with estimates for how long each task can take, they may end up deciding that making the change isn’t going to be worth it for their business.
Design Approval Coaching Session
We had our second coaching session this week and it went great! A few familiar faces joined but mostly it was brand new people.
This week we asked very similar questions when signing up as our last coaching session and we got some interesting results again:
- 72% said it’s hard to approve designs
- 76% who use email said it’s hard to approve designs
- 69.6% who use Atarim said it’s easy to approve designs
We realize that most of the problem stems from not having a real and focused design approval phase, so it doesn’t really matter how you go about it.
Our next one is on “Providing Support” and you can sign up for it here
Summary: Better Client Management + Atarim = Streamlined Design Approval
It’s clear to see why agencies using Atarim have less hassle approving designs & less scope creep than ever and an easier time working with their clients. It makes it extremely easy to get clients on board & giving you feedback all while not having them learn a completely different platform.
Easy to get started, easy to use for your team and your clients.
Honestly, what’s not to love? Get started today.
If you have absolutely anything to add or have a question – Tweet at us! 💬